You Can Make Your Volunteerism a Winning Strategy for All

I make a point of doing regular pro bono work for a number of businesses and organizations. Some of it’s purely voluntary because it’s the right thing to do, while some of my efforts are at least partially motivated by a desire to further my business prospects.

While I’d like to claim my motivations are 100% altruistic all of the time, that wouldn’t be the truth. Sure, I’m more than happy to donate time and resources and plain old “sweat and labor” for causes that are near and dear, but when businesses look to me for pro bono work or deep discounts, I have to look at the opportunity from a strategic standpoint.

BOM Por Bono Work

  • Does the business or organization operate in a field related to my target audience?
  • Is the company growing or slowing?
  • What’s my potential return on investment?
  • Is it reasonable for me to expect referral or networking opportunities to come out of the association?
  • Will I be able to get a case study out of the experience or add to my resume?
  • Will the company be easy to work with?
  • Will the company appreciate the work and the value they receive from me?

A WIN-WIN SITUATION

In my experience, pro bono work can be a win-win situation. The receiving organization gets incredible value—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars of value for nothing or pennies on the dollar—and I get to be involved in some incredible projects and work with some amazing people, such as the San Diego Chapter of the Huntington Disease Society of America and San Diego Sports Innovators.

WHERE IT CAN GO WRONG

Where it can go all wrong is when the relationship becomes heavily one-sided to the point where the recipient of all your efforts has no concept of what an entrepreneur or small business owner does and doesn’t understand (or isn’t willing to understand) that while all of your contributed hours aren’t being billed for, you still have bills to pay and you still have a team to lead and keep motivated even when they’re not getting paid. The receiving organization just seems content to ask for more and more without an appreciation for what you do and what you hope—what you need—to get out of the relationship. It’s becomes all about them.

Communication is the key to building any long-term relationships, whether there’s money involved or whether the work is being done pro bono, coupled with respect.

YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND THEIRS

When you agree to do pro bono or discounted work, you should expect to commit to the project 100% and bring all of your leadership skills, experience, and expertise to bear on the project—not to mention the collective talents of you and your team (if you have one). If you say you are going to do something, do it.

Volunteering can be wonderful way to give back.

In return, you should expect your “client” to understand your motivations for doing the work—there will be some altruistic reasons, no doubt, but you also have to get something out of the experience, too: referrals, networking opportunities, case studies, etc.

In addition, you should expect the “client” to . . .

  • Make only reasonable demands on your time
  • Run meetings efficiently
  • Practice active listening so he or she is sensitive to you/your team’s level of commitment
  • Make sure that you and any other volunteers have a role and know what it is
  • Appreciate the work you do and your contributions.

ALL PARTIES NEED TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THE EXPERIENCE

If a business or organization you are willing to do pro bono or deeply discounted work for can’t pay you money for your time, they should be able to pay in some other way, such as introducing you to people, exposure through networking, and letting you do the kind of work that rounds out your portfolio or resume. The success of such arrangements relies on developing a true partnership based on mutual appreciation, respect, and understanding. Once all of those elements are in place, pro bono work can be a win-win strategy for all, including the organization’s target audience (and yours).

What has your experience been with pro bono work and volunteerism? What challenges have you faced? Where have you succeeded?

Share your thoughts here.

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How to Make Pro Bono Work a Win-Win Strategy

I make a point of doing regular pro bono work for a number of businesses and organizations. Some of it’s purely voluntary because it’s the right thing to do, while some of my efforts are at least partially motivated by a desire to further my business prospects.

While I’d like to claim my motivations are 100% altruistic all of the time, that wouldn’t be the truth. Sure, I’m more than happy to donate time and resources and plain old “sweat and labor” for causes that are near and dear, but when businesses look to me for pro bono work or deep discounts, I have to look at the opportunity from a strategic standpoint.

BOM Por Bono Work

  • Does the business or organization operate in a field related to my target audience?
  • Is the company growing or slowing?
  • What’s my potential return on investment?
  • Is it reasonable for me to expect referral or networking opportunities to come out of the association?
  • Will I be able to get a case study out of the experience or add to my resume?
  • Will the company be easy to work with?
  • Will the company appreciate the work and the value they receive from me?

A WIN-WIN SITUATION

In my experience, pro bono work can be a win-win situation. The receiving organization gets incredible value—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars of value for nothing or pennies on the dollar—and I get to be involved in some incredible projects and work with some amazing people, such as the San Diego Chapter of the Huntington Disease Society of America and San Diego Sports Innovators.

WHERE IT CAN GO WRONG

Where it can go all wrong is when the relationship becomes heavily one-sided to the point where the recipient of all your efforts has no concept of what an entrepreneur or small business owner does and doesn’t understand (or isn’t willing to understand) that while all of your contributed hours aren’t being billed for, you still have bills to pay and you still have a team to lead and keep motivated even when they’re not getting paid. The receiving organization just seems content to ask for more and more without an appreciation for what you do and what you hope—what you need—to get out of the relationship. It’s becomes all about them.

Communication is the key to building any long-term relationships, whether there’s money involved or whether the work is being done pro bono, coupled with respect.

YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND THEIRS

When you agree to do pro bono or discounted work, you should expect to commit to the project 100% and bring all of your leadership skills, experience, and expertise to bear on the project—not to mention the collective talents of you and your team (if you have one). If you say you are going to do something, do it.

Volunteering can be wonderful way to give back.

In return, you should expect your “client” to understand your motivations for doing the work—there will be some altruistic reasons, no doubt, but you also have to get something out of the experience, too: referrals, networking opportunities, case studies, etc.

In addition, you should expect the “client” to . . .

  • Make only reasonable demands on your time
  • Run meetings efficiently
  • Practice active listening so he or she is sensitive to you/your team’s level of commitment
  • Make sure that you and any other volunteers have a role and know what it is
  • Appreciate the work you do and your contributions.

ALL PARTIES NEED TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THE EXPERIENCE

If a business or organization you are willing to do pro bono or deeply discounted work for can’t pay you money for your time, they should be able to pay in some other way, such as introducing you to people, exposure through networking, and letting you do the kind of work that rounds out your portfolio or resume. The success of such arrangements relies on developing a true partnership based on mutual appreciation, respect, and understanding. Once all of those elements are in place, pro bono work can be a win-win strategy for all, including the organization’s target audience (and yours).

What has your experience been with pro bono work and volunteerism? What challenges have you faced? Where have you succeeded?

Share your thoughts here.

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Be Free. Be Creative. Be Fun.

Can you feel it?

The sun’s rays are warmer, the Santa Ana winds are dying down, and soon crocuses and other early bloomers will be on full display.

Spring is definitely in the air.

With each spring comes a sense of renewal. Though we in southern California don’t have the seasonal shifts our friends to the north have (snow anyone?), and temperatures this “winter” were certainly more spring and summerlike than usual, there’s just something that happens come March and April that puts an extra spring in my step. Maybe it’s the longer days, the height of the sun, or the return of free open air concerts. Whatever it is, spring and the knowledge that summer is soon to follow, just seems to make things more alive, more FUN.

For those who know me and/or read this blog regularly, you know that FUN is my middle name (well, not literally, but figuratively it is!). With fun comes energy, enthusiasm, and the incessant desire to create. A few springs ago, I wrote a blog about “creativity” and how its most important ingredient is FUN.

Here’s that blog again . . . my “Theory of Creativity.” Have fun reading it, and may it inspire a little creativity in you.

Paul’s “Theory of Creativity”

(Originally posted on April 3, 2012)

Creativity is amazing. Seemingly out of thin air, creative types produce great works of art and literature, they innovate with architecture, technology, medicine, song. If you can name it, chances are there was a creative person behind it.

BoM Creativity

You think Albert Einstein wasn’t creative when he came up with the theory of relativity? Think again. Imagine the amount of creativity it took for him to challenge the conventional thinking of the day and go way beyond the limits of what he could easily see, feel, hear, and touch. No one had ever thought that way before. Now that’s creativity!

But here’s the reality check. Creativity doesn’t just happen. It’s not automatic, nor does it grow on a tree. If it did, I’d plant a creativity tree in my backyard, right next to the money tree (which is right next to my ever-bearing banana tree!). Creativity takes time, effort, patience. There are a lot of hours and a lot of sweat that go into being creative.

Take building a Web site for example. When the Barrel O’Monkeyz team engages in creating a Web site for a client, there’s a lot of creativity that goes into writing, designing, programming, and even the logistics of implementation. Sure, you could just use some ready-made, off-the-shelf template that looks like hundreds of other Web sites out there, deem it good enough, and hope that it brings you business—but chances are it won’t, at least not to its full potential. Without creative thinking to match the Web site’s look, feel, message, and functionality to your target audience, chances are you’re in for a letdown (this is where I insert my “you get what you pay for” refrain).

For any project—from Web sites to collateral pieces to new product development—the creative process involves going from strategy and concept (figuring out the why and how) to determining requirements (what’s needed for success and setting expectations) to drafting and mocking-up what the concept will look/act like (this is the stage where changes can be made easily) to finished creative (where everything comes together), which sets the stage for implementation, execution, measurement, and refinement.

Of course, all this talk about creativity begs the question, “Can creativity be taught?” (And, if so, wouldn’t that just be fantastic . . . and by the way, I’ve got a tree for you to plant!)

Personally, I don’t believe creativity can be taught, and I’m not alone. In a blog on the Psychology Today Web site about government efforts to mandate teaching creativity in our schools, Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein write that they believe while certain creative habits and behaviors “can be modeled in the classroom,” creativity itself can’t be taught. They argue that the steps in the process of being creative can be taught, but the essence, the secret sauce that makes one creative, cannot.

So here’s where my “Theory of Creativity” kicks in: Creativity can’t be taught, but it can be nurtured, enhanced, cultivated, and encouraged over a lifetime. And the main ingredient necessary for creativity to flourish—from success at work or at home, in business or at play, from success in your relationships with peers or family and loved ones—is FUN.

Barrel O’ Monkeyz – More Creativity, More Ideas, More Fun!

Without fun, you won’t feel free to create, to innovate, to invent. And while putting together that Web site or book or series of collateral pieces might not be seem on par with Edison inventing the light bulb or Bell inventing the telephone, it’s all part of the creative process.

So, have fun in what you do. Be free. Be creative. Dare to challenge the norm. Dare to innovate. There’s no telling what you might create!

Recommended Reading—Check this book out “Jump Start Your Brain” by Doug Hall for an inspiring read on how to deliver top-shelf creative results.

What about you? What are your thoughts on creativity? How does creativity play a role in your business or personal life? How do keep things fun?

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Spring Forward: Time for Fun, Creativity

Can you feel it?

The sun’s rays are warmer, the Santa Ana winds are dying down, and soon crocuses and other early bloomers will be on full display.

Spring is definitely in the air.

With each spring comes a sense of renewal. Though we in southern California don’t have the seasonal shifts our friends to the north have (snow anyone?), and temperatures this “winter” were certainly more spring and summerlike than usual, there’s just something that happens come March and April that puts an extra spring in my step. Maybe it’s the longer days, the height of the sun, or the return of free open air concerts. Whatever it is, spring and the knowledge that summer is soon to follow, just seems to make things more alive, more FUN.

For those who know me and/or read this blog regularly, you know that FUN is my middle name (well, not literally, but figuratively it is!). With fun comes energy, enthusiasm, and the incessant desire to create. A few springs ago, I wrote a blog about “creativity” and how its most important ingredient is FUN.

Here’s that blog again . . . my “Theory of Creativity.” Have fun reading it, and may it inspire a little creativity in you.

Paul’s “Theory of Creativity”

(Originally posted on April 3, 2012)

Creativity is amazing. Seemingly out of thin air, creative types produce great works of art and literature, they innovate with architecture, technology, medicine, song. If you can name it, chances are there was a creative person behind it.

BoM Creativity

You think Albert Einstein wasn’t creative when he came up with the theory of relativity? Think again. Imagine the amount of creativity it took for him to challenge the conventional thinking of the day and go way beyond the limits of what he could easily see, feel, hear, and touch. No one had ever thought that way before. Now that’s creativity!

But here’s the reality check. Creativity doesn’t just happen. It’s not automatic, nor does it grow on a tree. If it did, I’d plant a creativity tree in my backyard, right next to the money tree (which is right next to my ever-bearing banana tree!). Creativity takes time, effort, patience. There are a lot of hours and a lot of sweat that go into being creative.

Take building a Web site for example. When the Barrel O’Monkeyz team engages in creating a Web site for a client, there’s a lot of creativity that goes into writing, designing, programming, and even the logistics of implementation. Sure, you could just use some ready-made, off-the-shelf template that looks like hundreds of other Web sites out there, deem it good enough, and hope that it brings you business—but chances are it won’t, at least not to its full potential. Without creative thinking to match the Web site’s look, feel, message, and functionality to your target audience, chances are you’re in for a letdown (this is where I insert my “you get what you pay for” refrain).

For any project—from Web sites to collateral pieces to new product development—the creative process involves going from strategy and concept (figuring out the why and how) to determining requirements (what’s needed for success and setting expectations) to drafting and mocking-up what the concept will look/act like (this is the stage where changes can be made easily) to finished creative (where everything comes together), which sets the stage for implementation, execution, measurement, and refinement.

Of course, all this talk about creativity begs the question, “Can creativity be taught?” (And, if so, wouldn’t that just be fantastic . . . and by the way, I’ve got a tree for you to plant!)

Personally, I don’t believe creativity can be taught, and I’m not alone. In a blog on the Psychology Today Web site about government efforts to mandate teaching creativity in our schools, Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein write that they believe while certain creative habits and behaviors “can be modeled in the classroom,” creativity itself can’t be taught. They argue that the steps in the process of being creative can be taught, but the essence, the secret sauce that makes one creative, cannot.

So here’s where my “Theory of Creativity” kicks in: Creativity can’t be taught, but it can be nurtured, enhanced, cultivated, and encouraged over a lifetime. And the main ingredient necessary for creativity to flourish—from success at work or at home, in business or at play, from success in your relationships with peers or family and loved ones—is FUN.

Barrel O’ Monkeyz – More Creativity, More Ideas, More Fun!

Without fun, you won’t feel free to create, to innovate, to invent. And while putting together that Web site or book or series of collateral pieces might not be seem on par with Edison inventing the light bulb or Bell inventing the telephone, it’s all part of the creative process.

So, have fun in what you do. Be free. Be creative. Dare to challenge the norm. Dare to innovate. There’s no telling what you might create!

Recommended Reading—Check this book out “Jump Start Your Brain” by Doug Hall for an inspiring read on how to deliver top-shelf creative results.

What about you? What are your thoughts on creativity? How does creativity play a role in your business or personal life? How do keep things fun?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Your Brand Flexible? Entrepreneurs, Startups, and even Major Brands Need to Respond to Changes in the Marketplace

The smartphone and tablet wars are ongoing. Every 6 to 12 months, we get a new barrage of tantalizing photos and cryptic descriptions of the latest this and the latest that—sleek new gadget designs and powerful new software that promise to be bigger, better, faster.

In all honesty, though, it all seems a bit “more of the same” at this point.

Sure, the Apple Watch looks cool, but is it a disruptive force like the first iPhone or iPod? The jury’s still out on that one, and I’m not convinced there’s going to be a mad dash to the marketplace for consumers to adorn themselves with a watch that’s more bulky than it is sexy. Time will tell (pun intended).

I Believe in I Can

The last decade saw a dizzying amount of new releases and innovations of the likes we hadn’t seen in quite a while. Apple’s iPod debuted in 2001, the first iPhone in 2007, the first iPad in 2010, and the first Samsung Galaxy in 2010.

Can you believe we’ve been nose-deep in our smartphones for less than 10 years? The iPod, the elder statesman of the bunch, practically feels ancient in comparison given that it’s been around for 14 years! It’s hard to remember a time when smartphones and tablets weren’t as omnipresent as they are these days.

Naturally, this begs the question: “What’s next?”

  • Is Google Glass or Microsoft’s Hololens the next big breakthrough?
  • Is there something in Samsung’s laboratories yet to be unveiled?
  • What does Apple have in the wings for 2015 and beyond? Will the Apple Car ever see the road . . . and what ever happened to the promise of AppleTV?
  • Or is there a surprise in store for us from some new company or an old one looking to introduce a breakout new product?

It’s a wonder that today’s business leaders, from CEOs and business owners to product developers and marketers, don’t all have ulcers trying to come up with and build their company’s next “better mouse trap.” While I can’t speak to the daily level of antacid intake for these individuals, I can speak to the type of mindset it takes to survive and thrive in today’s marketplace for companies of all sizes, from the very small to the very big:

  • You need to be flexible, adaptable, and ready, willing, and able to respond to what’s happening in the marketplace.
  • You need to be thinking, what’s my next opportunity look like vs. maintaining the status quo.
  • You need to be thinking, what’s my long game vs. focusing solely on short-term objectives.

Given Apple’s tremendous success of the last 15 years and the fact that it’s now the world’s most valuable company, it’s easy to forget that the company was on the verge of bankruptcy in the mid-1990s.

Early on, Apple innovated with a user friendly, intuitive software platform, but as Microsoft caught up in ease of use, the ability of PCs and PC clones to run on the Windows operating system made whether or not to buy Apple’s hardware (which was necessary to run the Apple operating system) a difficult, if not impossible, decision. Couple that with Apple’s lack of any real new enhancements to its operating system for several years in the early 1990s, and it’s easy to understand why the Apple brand started to wither on the tree.

Apple’s leadership at the time simply failed to respond to the changing marketplace. It’s competitors were catching up and passing them, and consumers—even Apple’s most diehard fans—were beginning to look elsewhere. Cue the return of Steve Jobs circa 1997 and a new era of innovation at Apple was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

Unfortunately, not all companies fare so well. Consider Kodak, once one of America’s most successful and enduring companies (or so we thought). Why did the Kodak we once knew fail?

Even though it invented digital photography in the mid-1970s, Kodak simply refused to believe that its core business of film and film chemicals was in decline despite a marketplace that was telling it again and again that digital was the wave of the future. Kodak was either unable to recognize or to accept its new marketplace realities, so it failed to adapt its business model and its brand, which resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

The Kodak we knew is now gone. What remains is a former shell of itself, selling digital imaging and print services for businesses and commercial film.

While brands need to remain true to who and what they are, they also need to recognize that market conditions change. Whether it’s due to technology, economic forces, or simple consumer preference, brands need to be able to adapt and “flex” their business models in order to survive and thrive.

Passion . . . Inspiration: Follow Your Heart

How do you look ahead and consider what’s next for your brand? Do you keep an eye on industry trends, emerging technologies, and shifts in consumer preferences? Do you monitor the environment in which you operate, including the affect regulations and public and fiscal policies might have on your business?

Do you have a “how can we do better” and “how can we continuously improve” mentality? Do you encourage employees to step up and speak up with ideas and innovations? Are you ready for what tomorrow brings for you and your brand?

Share how you have been able to respond to changes in the marketplace over the years . . . or how you haven’t. What lessons have you learned? What lessons can you teach others?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Great Brands Need to Respond to Changes in the Marketplace

The smartphone and tablet wars are ongoing. Every 6 to 12 months, we get a new barrage of tantalizing photos and cryptic descriptions of the latest this and the latest that—sleek new gadget designs and powerful new software that promise to be bigger, better, faster.

In all honesty, though, it all seems a bit “more of the same” at this point.

Sure, the Apple Watch looks cool, but is it a disruptive force like the first iPhone or iPod? The jury’s still out on that one, and I’m not convinced there’s going to be a mad dash to the marketplace for consumers to adorn themselves with a watch that’s more bulky than it is sexy. Time will tell (pun intended).

I Believe in I Can

The last decade saw a dizzying amount of new releases and innovations of the likes we hadn’t seen in quite a while. Apple’s iPod debuted in 2001, the first iPhone in 2007, the first iPad in 2010, and the first Samsung Galaxy in 2010.

Can you believe we’ve been nose-deep in our smartphones for less than 10 years? The iPod, the elder statesman of the bunch, practically feels ancient in comparison given that it’s been around for 14 years! It’s hard to remember a time when smartphones and tablets weren’t as omnipresent as they are these days.

Naturally, this begs the question: “What’s next?”

  • Is Google Glass or Microsoft’s Hololens the next big breakthrough?
  • Is there something in Samsung’s laboratories yet to be unveiled?
  • What does Apple have in the wings for 2015 and beyond? Will the Apple Car ever see the road . . . and what ever happened to the promise of AppleTV?
  • Or is there a surprise in store for us from some new company or an old one looking to introduce a breakout new product?

It’s a wonder that today’s business leaders, from CEOs and business owners to product developers and marketers, don’t all have ulcers trying to come up with and build their company’s next “better mouse trap.” While I can’t speak to the daily level of antacid intake for these individuals, I can speak to the type of mindset it takes to survive and thrive in today’s marketplace for companies of all sizes, from the very small to the very big:

  • You need to be flexible, adaptable, and ready, willing, and able to respond to what’s happening in the marketplace.
  • You need to be thinking, what’s my next opportunity look like vs. maintaining the status quo.
  • You need to be thinking, what’s my long game vs. focusing solely on short-term objectives.

Given Apple’s tremendous success of the last 15 years and the fact that it’s now the world’s most valuable company, it’s easy to forget that the company was on the verge of bankruptcy in the mid-1990s.

Early on, Apple innovated with a user friendly, intuitive software platform, but as Microsoft caught up in ease of use, the ability of PCs and PC clones to run on the Windows operating system made whether or not to buy Apple’s hardware (which was necessary to run the Apple operating system) a difficult, if not impossible, decision. Couple that with Apple’s lack of any real new enhancements to its operating system for several years in the early 1990s, and it’s easy to understand why the Apple brand started to wither on the tree.

Apple’s leadership at the time simply failed to respond to the changing marketplace. It’s competitors were catching up and passing them, and consumers—even Apple’s most diehard fans—were beginning to look elsewhere. Cue the return of Steve Jobs circa 1997 and a new era of innovation at Apple was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

Unfortunately, not all companies fare so well. Consider Kodak, once one of America’s most successful and enduring companies (or so we thought). Why did the Kodak we once knew fail?

Even though it invented digital photography in the mid-1970s, Kodak simply refused to believe that its core business of film and film chemicals was in decline despite a marketplace that was telling it again and again that digital was the wave of the future. Kodak was either unable to recognize or to accept its new marketplace realities, so it failed to adapt its business model and its brand, which resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

The Kodak we knew is now gone. What remains is a former shell of itself, selling digital imaging and print services for businesses and commercial film.

While brands need to remain true to who and what they are, they also need to recognize that market conditions change. Whether it’s due to technology, economic forces, or simple consumer preference, brands need to be able to adapt and “flex” their business models in order to survive and thrive.

Passion . . . Inspiration: Follow Your Heart

How do you look ahead and consider what’s next for your brand? Do you keep an eye on industry trends, emerging technologies, and shifts in consumer preferences? Do you monitor the environment in which you operate, including the affect regulations and public and fiscal policies might have on your business?

Do you have a “how can we do better” and “how can we continuously improve” mentality? Do you encourage employees to step up and speak up with ideas and innovations? Are you ready for what tomorrow brings for you and your brand?

Share how you have been able to respond to changes in the marketplace over the years . . . or how you haven’t. What lessons have you learned? What lessons can you teach others?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mardi Gras Anyone?

Mardi Gras seemed to come and go this year with little fanfare. In fact, if New Orleans hadn’t been featured as a backdrop to some of my favorite TV shows, I might not have noticed its arrival and departure at all—though I do recall seeing an online feature on Rio de Janeiro’s “Carnival” celebration . . . but that’s about it.

Maybe it’s because Mardi Gras occurred a little earlier this year (February 17) than the last few, or maybe it’s just that here in the USA, a prolonged cold and snowy winter (even in the deep south) has stymied a bit of the nation’s celebratory mood, leaving the media and most everyone else somewhat disinterested. Or maybe it’s just me.

Whatever the case, Mardi Gras is much more than an excuse for drinking and rabblerousing. For Christians, it’s a time for celebration and letting go before the season of sacrifice that follows.

I wrote a short blog about Mardi Gras four years ago. In it, I contemplated how Mardi Gras (representing excess) and the Christian Season of Lent (representing sacrifice) was analogous to our current economic cycle.

  • Has much changed for us in those four years?
  • Has much changed for friends, family, and loved ones?
  • Looking the world over, has much changed at all?

All politics aside, to paraphrase the immortal words of Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential debates, “Are we better off than we were four years ago?”

It’s hard to tell whether we’re better off, worse, or simply maintaining the status quo. With that in mind, re-read my earlier blog, then feel free to offer your answers. Curious monkeys want to know.

BoM-Mardi-Gras

Surviving and Thriving

(Originally Posted on March 22, 2011)

Mardi Gras has come and gone. There was lots of celebrating leading up to Fat Tuesday, followed by what many call “Trash Wednesday” (which is actually “Ash Wednesday”), the inevitable and much dreaded “day after.”

While Mardi Gras is popularly depicted as a time for parades, balls, and widespread partying, at its roots, Mardi Gras is based in religion, specifically the celebratory period leading to the Christian season of Lent, which is a time of sacrifice.

So it was in this vein I got to thinking the other day about how Mardi Gras closely resembles our current economic cycle. (I know, I know, it’s heady stuff coming from a King Monkey, but bear with me.)

If we think of the 1990s as our economic Mardi Gras, culminating with Fat Tuesday, then this decade (especially in recent years) represents “the day after” and the season of sacrifice to follow.

What have you had to sacrifice to keep your business afloat? How does the reality of today’s economy resemble the “good old days”? How is it different for you, personally and professionally?

I thoroughly believe the world needs more people who are willing to help one another out during tough times. My hope is that if I give 80% of the time, that 20% will come back to me.

For you new entrepreneurs, still wet behind the ears, who have never experienced a roaring economy, how have you managed to survive and thrive in times of scarcity?

Let us know. We monkeys like to share ideas!

Ellen’s ‘Ari’ experiences Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

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Needs vs. Wants Helps Us Keep Priorities in Focus

It’s not easy to stay focused—not in a world that seems to be moving at a million miles per hour, not in a world in which we are bombarded with endless news cycles that feed us stories ranging from deadly snow and cold in the northeast to ISIS beheadings in the Middle East to romantic tips for enjoying Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart. Throw in parental and spousal responsibilities (both of which I am blissfully aware these days), the obligations of running a household, managing your health, and—oh, by the way—running a business or sustaining a career, and it can all get a bit much at times.

BOM-wants-needs

Whether we realize it or not, we are all CEOs of our lives. We get to choose what to focus on and what to let go every minute of every day. Granted, it’s sometimes tough to admit for us “get-er-done” types, but there is only so much time in each day and only so much of us to go around. We can’t do it all, even though we’d like to.

It takes a real leader, someone comfortable with making choices and facing the consequences of those choices to say, “This is what I need to accomplish today or this week” versus “This is what I want to accomplish.”

  • To live, we need air, food, water, and shelter. We only want bottled water, a flat screen TV, the latest smartphone upgrade, and a big house. See the difference?
  • In relationships, we need love and companionship, while we may want to go out to dinner or the movies three times a week, or always be the life of the party.
  • In business and/or our jobs, we need to prove our value to our bosses or customers to remain gainfully employed or profitable. We only want to make as much profit/money as possible; we only want to beat all of our competitors; we only want to get that next promotion or land that big client even though our jobs/businesses are already satisfying our needs.

Now take a look at your “to-do” list for either work or home (or both) from the perspective of your needs vs. wants.

What do you need to accomplish today? What do you want to accomplish?

How can you use the notion of needs vs. wants to prioritize those items you must get done today, versus those you would like to get done today?

Make two new lists: your “need-to-do list” and your “want-to-do” list.

  • How many hours does your “need-to-do” list represent (and don’t forget to include adequate time for sleep and self-care)?
  • What happens if you don’t get to your “want-to-do” list items today . . . or any day for that matter?
  • If some of the want-to-do items have no real consequences if never addressed, do they really need to be on your list in the first place?

Look ahead several days, a week, or a month and identify those want-to-do items that by necessity will become need-to-do tasks (for example, completing projects on a deadline, paying bills, filing taxes, keeping a doctor’s appointment, etc.). How do these impending “need-to-do” items impact what new needs/wants you might consider going forward?

By keeping items on your radar that don’t need to get done today, but will eventually need to address, you can manage your workload better and juggle priorities so you don’t get overwhelmed down the road.

Granted, focusing only on doing what we need and never doing what we want could make for a very dull, utilitarian life. After all, it took lots of human aspiration and inspiration to get us where we are today—and where we are is pretty good, in general, no matter what the naysayers tell us. Every once in a while, we do need to treat ourselves by doing or getting something we want. It’s only human nature, and it’s really why we keep pushing and striving to do and be better. It’s the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick. It’s what drives innovation.

But on those days or during those weeks where there is just too much clutter and your priorities lack clarity, take a few minutes to assess your needs versus your wants and let some of your wants fall by the wayside, at least temporarily. You’ll be glad you did.

Dilbert cartoons where Wally ranks his priorities … and more!

Be the CEO—the leader—you need to be to give yourself permission to choose your priorities. Doing so just might be the answer you need to take charge of your life and keep it all in focus.

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Staying True to My Brand

With a personal slogan of “More Creativity, More Ideas, More Fun!” and a company logo that feature’s a blue monkey with a big, wide grin, it should come as no surprise that humor finds its way into my social media posts and blogs quite often.

Humor is an important part of who I am and thus an important part of “Paul June’s” brand story.

Just the other day, someone questioned whether me posting a joke on LinkedIn was an appropriate use of that forum.

I believe it was . . . and that it is.

BOM Stay True to Brand Story

Humor is important, whether it’s in our personal lives and relationships, around the dinner table, standing in line at the movie theater, on lunch break, or even in the board room.

I find humor energizing. It helps ease tension. Compare otherwise dry business speeches that use a bit of humor to those that do not. Which is more engaging?

With my Barrel O’ Monkeyz crew, humor is an important part of the “glue” that binds us together as a team. It’s an important part of our brand story. It frees our minds and leads to creativity.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for everything. Too much of anything—even a good thing—gets old. In business, there’s a time and a place for humor, just as there’s a time and a place for being serious.

So I’m not suggesting we turn LinkedIn into another Facebook, complete with favorite cat pictures, Farmville updates, and shout outs to long lost classmates. What I’m suggesting is that it’s good, even necessary, for all of us to lighten up once in a while—after all, “All work and no play makes Jack (or Jill) a dull boy (or girl)”—and that for me, doing so is consistent with my brand and the expectations of my target audience.

Here’s the LinkedIn post that had one of my contacts questioning if telling jokes on a business site was relevant:

“Dad, are they allowed to put two people in the same grave?”
“I don’t think so, son. Why do you ask?”
“Because that headstone over there says, ‘Here lies a lawyer and an honest man.'”

Admit it, even if you are a lawyer, you chuckled a bit, didn’t you?

I know through analytics and feedback from members of my target audience that they enjoy having the monotony of dull business articles broken up with my occasional jokes. As for those who do not, they’re most likely not in my target audience . . . and you can’t please everyone (nor should you try to). For them, they always have the choice to read something I post or not, or to follow my feed or not.

About 10 months ago, this same topic came up concerning my posts dealing with religious quotes. I said it then and I’ll say it again here: posting religious quotes (and jokes) “works for me and is part of who I am, and I am proud of it.”

What say you?

Here’s that blog again. Enjoy!

I Know My Brand . . . Do You Know Yours?

(Originally Posted on April 9, 2014)

Feedback is how we know we are doing something right; it’s also how we know when we’re doing something wrong. Feedback is necessary. It’s how we improve our relationships and raise our golf (or in my case, volleyball) game to the next level; it’s also how we fine-tune our business offerings and hone our brands.

I love getting and giving feedback.

On the personal side, feedback is important for growing and nurturing relationships with friends and family and loved ones. As a marketer and a business entrepreneur, feedback is necessary for the care and feeding of my business relationships and network, and it’s how I know if my message is getting out and whether or not my brand is clear.

That’s why I encourage readers of this blog and my followers on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to comment on my posts. Generally, your comments help me know if my message/brand is being received as intended or whether I need to refine my approach.

Every now and then, though, I get feedback that makes me step back and think, what is my brand? Do I truly know it, and am I communicating it effectively?

Recently, my inspirational, daily religious quote elicited the following response from a long-time LinkedIn contact, creative branding specialist, and friend:

Re: Ponder This

Hey Paul – hope all is well, but I have a question for you. 

Do you think religious scripture – regardless of what one’s faith is – is appropriate for LinkedIn, a business site?

Do you see any other posts like that?

Those of you who read this blog regularly or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn know that my beliefs and values are worldly with a Christian focus. I make no attempt to hide this. Authenticity and being true to my beliefs and values are important to me. You also know that I do not try to juggle both a “business brand” along with a “personal brand.” There is only one Paul June, so there is only one Paul June brand.

Thus my reply—

It works for me and is part of who I am, and I am proud of it. I respect all religions and enjoy seeing when others post (which is seldom to your point). Feel free to disregard. Hope all is well and I like your comment. 

— was really the only reply possible so that I could stay true to myself and to my brand.

Some of you may be thinking this flies in the face of the old adage, “never mix religion and politics with business or polite company.” In other words, why go there if I don’t need to?

It’s simple, really. I choose to “go there” because doing so reveals something about me as a person; it’s not an attempt to sway others to my point of view. It’s who I am. It’s my brand.

Branding: Know yourself and know your audience
… and pull a few tails along the way.

I know my brand  . . . do you know yours?

  • I know my brand.
  • I know my audience.
  • Analytics speak to it.
  • “Daily Religious Quotes” speak to it.
  • “Daily Quotes” speak to it.
  • People who do business with me value it.
  • My personal slogan is “More Creativity, More Ideas, More Fun!”
  • My target audience covers consumer (people) products and can be broken down into consumer electronics, toys, gifts, apparel, sports, outdoor retail, action sports, general retail, digital media, social media, web site development, SEO/SEM, marketing, and branding.
  • One of my goals with this blog and through social media is to inspire, motivate, and energize others by providing what I think is entertaining, informative, and enriching content.

In the end, it’s all about being genuine and “real” to your audience. It’s about knowing your brand. In the immortal words of a certain, spinach-eating cartoon character, “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.

So now you know how I responded to the “Ponder This” comment. How would you have replied? Please share with others. I look forward to and invite your feedback.

Special Thanks to Chris GreggJamie BlattsteinMatt McGovern and Monkeyz Business Nation for their inspiration, feedback, and support.

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A Lesson in Branding from the NFL

While I didn’t really have a “dog” in this show—my favorite team, the Oakland Raiders haven’t even got a whiff of the playoffs in a decade plus—being a west coaster, I was rooting for the Seattle Seahawks to be crowned champions again this year. One miracle catch had them poised to repeat, but a questionable goal line play call, an interception seemingly out of nowhere, and undoubtedly a few cardiac arrests by fans of both teams later, and the New England Patriots were winners of their fourth SuperBowl in 13 years.

BOM Seahawks Joke

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the tandem of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady gets things done . . . and has been getting things done for 14 years and counting. In fact, let’s include a third person in that grouping, creating the Patriots “Trinity,” owner Bob Kraft who bought the team in 1994.

Since then, the Patriots have morphed from at-best a mediocre team with occasional flashes of potential to becoming a perennial top contender. The numbers don’t lie: New England has made the playoffs 16 times in the last 20 years; they won AFC East titles in 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; they were AFC champions in 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, and 2014; and they’ve gone 4-3 in their seven SuperBowl appearances since Kraft took over. Not a bad run, if you ask me.

So what’s the reason for the Patriot’s success and their ability to sustain it over the years?

Naturally, much of it has to do with having the right mix of athletes and coaching at the right time, plus some good old-fashioned luck. But as a brand builder, I can’t help but attribute a good deal of New England’s success to the organization’s ability to craft and live its own brand story, both internally and externally.

As an organization, New England seems to be one of those few NFL teams that remains consistent to who they are and “why” they are, with a well-defined vision and clear objectives. It’s classic Branding 101, and I have to believe it has something to do with their owner, who also just happens to own Kraft Foods, another major brand success story. Clearly, Mr. Kraft “gets it” and I’m betting he makes sure the rest of the organization, from the head coach to the practice squad to the ball boys, “gets it,” too.

Of course, there have been a few pock marks on the Patriot’s road to success. Like most organizations, there have been some missteps along the way—such as the “Spy-gate” scandal where Coach Belichick was accused of and fined $500,000 for illegally videotaping opponent defensive signals; the arrest and current trial of tight end Aaron Hernandez for murder; and, of course, the most recent “Deflate-gate” controversy where the Patriots stand accused of using underinflated footballs in their AFC championship victory over Indianapolis. But the strength of their brand, the strength of the “Patriot Way,” has allowed them, thus far, to weather any and all storms thrown their way.

NFL 2015 — A Bad Lip Reading (Funny)

Here’s is my insight into the “Patriots Way” (granted, I don’t have any knowledge of the inner workings of the Patriots machine, so consider this an outsider’s perspective looking in):

  • They have a clear understanding of their organizational cultural, which governs the type of players and coaches they want. Those who fit the culture, they welcome into the fold. Those who don’t either never get to Foxboro or are sent packing.
  • They establish and enforce organizational behaviors & beliefs to govern who they are, what they believe, and how they act. No individual is greater than the team; team goals always outweigh individual goals. What happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse (think about it, when is the last time you remember hearing anything even close to a clubhouse controversy or squabble between players?). Further, all personnel are expected to represent the Patriots brand well at all times and never give the other team anything it can use as “bulletin board” material around which to rally—something Wes Welker seemingly “forgot” when he let loose with a series of jokes about then-NY Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan’s alleged involvement in a foot fetish video with his wife (Welker was not in the starting lineup for the AFC championship game, and a year later was off to the Denver Broncos).
  • They have an uncanny ability to stay focused and to keep their eyes on the prize. From injuries and underperformance to various controversies and intense media scrutiny, the Patriots never seem to let any of the chatter get in the way of their achieving their goals. There are no better examples than the recent “deflate-gate” charges or earlier this season when facing a record of 2-2 following a blow-out loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and when all the NFL pundits and even a few New England fans were wondering if 37-year-old Tom Brady was finally reaching the end of his great run or if Coach Belichick had lost his magic touch, the team’s stance was simply “We’re on to Cincinnati” (their next opponent). This simple message became a rallying cry of sorts for the remainder of the season, culminating with Belichick’s declaration “We’re on to Seattle” when “deflate-gate” first surfaced.
  • They don’t let sentimentality get in the way of their business goals. They recognize that while football is a game, the NFL is a business. As such, they focus on winning today and sustaining their winning ways going forward. What happened last season or even last game is in the past. For the Patriot’s on-field product, it’s all about doing and being in the best position possible to win the next game. The list of players cut loose by the Patriots when they were just past their primes (or soon to be) is long: Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, Logan Mankins, and even Drew Bledsoe (Tom Brady’s predecessor). Some look at this as the organization being ruthless and uncaring, but it’s been essential to the Patriot’s success . . . and the Patriots seem to go out of their way to honor the past contributions of their “favorite sons” by naming them honorary captains and including them in various team events and activities. It’s only on the playing field, where performance is critical to winning, that they are no longer deemed necessary.

It will be interesting to see, in the not too distant future, when the careers of QB Tom Brady and Coach Belichick come to their inevitable ends, and when the elder Mr. Kraft eventually rides into the sunset, if those left behind—the new head coach, the new starting QB, and Jonathan Kraft (his father’s heir apparent)—can continue the Patriot’s strong brand performance.

Some businesses have done it. Disney had a bit of a rocky path after Walt’s death, but eventually righted its ship in the early 1980s to cement itself as one of the world’s most enduring brands. Apple has had a few “hiccups” of its own since founder Steve Jobs died in 2011, but if the first quarter of 2015 is any indicator, Apple is again on its way to record profits.

Where do you think the Patriot brand will be 3, 5, 10 years from now?

“I think people in America today, it’s not just about money,” Kraft said back in 2013, commenting on what he considers the ‘Patriot Way.’ “They want to be connected to something they feel is special and when they get up every day, they look forward to coming to work. We try to create an environment here that does that. We’re not always successful, but we give it our best shot.”

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